LOVES PARK, Ill. – It has been 22 years since Rich Bickle won his first National Short Track Championship. Today, with 37 years of racing under his belt, he can now say that he is a two-time NSTC champion after winning the historic event again at Rockford Speedway.
Kenny Joosten also won his second Mid-American Series NSTC feature while Austin Nason won both the Gerber Collision Challenge and Late Model Showdown Match Race.
Bickle held off Casey Johnson over the final 10 laps to win the 47th Annual prestigious event at the famed quarter-mile oval.
It was an emotional victory for Bickle as he dedicated his win to his mother Jackie, who passed away earlier this year along with Hoosier Racing Tire Founder Bob Newton.
“I thought about Bob (Newton), my mom last night and it was pretty tough,” Bickle said after the race. “I ain’t getting any younger and to race these young guys, it isn’t easier. But this car has been pretty good since we built it for this race last year. After all this time, it was my turn. All year long I have been a ping pong ball on the racetracks and I said today that I wasn’t taking any prisoners, I don’t give a damn about nobody, I ran into a few cars and I said after getting body slammed they are getting paid back.”
Bickle had to use his muscle to get by Brian Johnson, Jr. for the lead with 55 laps to go.
“Brian wrecked me in the summertime. We were running second with nobody else to race with he dusted me into the inside wall,” Bickle said. “I told him that I would pay him back. He was driving another guy’s car so I didn’t wreck him. But I did pay him back.”
Casey Johnson was competing in his first ever Super Late Model race and came home with a second place finish.
“That old boy still knows how to get it done,” Johnson said after the race. “I tried every trick I knew and couldn’t get him. “
Steve Rubeck finished third.
“Being in the top five all day with this competition is tough,” Rubeck said. “I was very happy with the year I had to come back with a third place finish.’
Ricky Bilderback and Steve Apel rounded out the top-five.
Brian Johnson Jr. took the lead at the drop of the green flag over Rubeck. Johnson was pacing the field until the first caution flew on lap 28 when Jeremy Schultz spun in turn three.
After the field did lane choice re-start, Johnson continued to lead when the race went back to green on laps 42. He was challenged by Ricky Bilderback for the lead but was able to pull away. The caution flag would wave a second time when Casey Johnson and Adam Royle made contact in turn four causing Johnson to spin. Both were sent to the rear.
Johnson continued to lead when the race went back to green on lap 60. Johnson was pressured by Bilderback as the seven-time Rockford Speedway champion tried to get on the inside of Johnson. His best shot came on lap 84 when he got alongside of Johnson coming off turn two. But Bilderback had to slow and get behind Johnson to get around the lap car of Jeremy Spoonmore.
Bickle kept making his march to the front by getting past Rubeck on lap 89. He then caught Bilderback on lap 96 and completed the pass on lap 98. Bickle started to pressure Johnson for the lead until the caution flew for the halfway break.
After the halfway break, the field returned chose their lane for the double file restart. Johnson continued to lead and was once again pressured by Bilderback. There was a lot of scrambling for position behind him with Rubeck in third, Bickle in fourth and Steve Apel in fifth.
The caution flew on lap 112 when Mikie Breiner made contact with the wall in turns one and two.
Field went back to green on lap 121 with Bilderback pressuring Johnson for the lead. Bilderback got on the inside of Johnson coming out of turn two. The two drivers made contact coming out of turn two, Bilderback got loose and went sailing into the infield. He got back on the track in eighth and the green flag stayed out.
Bickle took over second and immediately put pressure on Johnson for the lead. Bickle got on the inside of Johnson on lap 145 and there was contact between the two as they came out of turn four with Bickle as the new leader of the event.
Michael Bilderback would bring out the next caution on lap 150 as he spun on the frontstretch.
The green flag came back out with 36 laps to go. As the field went into turn one and two, Jon Reynolds Jr. appeared to get loose then spun and collected Eddie Hoffman, Landry Potter and Larry Schuler.
The final re-start came with 10 laps to go. Johnson got second over Rubeck and challenged the veteran driver all the way to the checkered flag.
Mikie Breiner won the Last Chance race with Jeremy Spoonmore in second. Mark Simonsen was third with Shaun Wiljer getting the last spot for the main event. Jeremy Schultz and Trevor Tichy received provisional to the main event.
Kenny Joosten won the Mid-American 75-lap feature event. Lyle Nowak was second with Bill Prietzel in third.
Austin Nason held off Jon Reynolds Jr. to win the Gerber Collision Challenge. Jake Gille was third with Matt Berger in fourth.
Nason then came back out later to beat John Beinlich in the Late Model Showdown Match Race. Nason won the best two out of three 3-lap match races.